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Conversation with Gong Jow Jiun and Simon Soon

May 25, 2017
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Para Site is pleased to present a conversation between Gong Jow Jiun, curator and art critic, and Simon Soon, art historian and curator of Towards A Mystical Reality, part of the exhibition Soil and Stones, Souls and Songs. They will discuss the role of vernacular religious art and folk culture as forms of parallel cultural production, outside of colonially framed modern narratives on politics, economics, and aesthetics. Gong’s talk will depart from the recent exhibition Kau-Pué, Mutual Companionship in Near Future, part of the long term research in Taiwan on the knowledge of “Kau-pué realms”, self-organised social systems that can be traced to civil society during the Qing dynasty. In the exhibition that included contemporary and folk artists, Gong and the curatorial team identified a vernacular genealogy as an alternative narration to the linear art history of Taiwanese modernism as well as to the established narratives on politics, religion, indigenous identity, and history of folklore. Simon Soon will present his research on Datok Fatimah, a house temple in Klang that offers a transhistorical and transcultural bond between two migrant working class communities in this Malaysian port city across the twentieth century.

The session will be conducted in English.

About the speakers

Gong Jow Jiun currently teaches at the Doctoral Program in Art Creation and Theory at the Tainan National University of the Arts. He received his Ph.D. at the National Taiwan University, department of philosophy in 1998. From 2009 he organised the quarterly art magazine Art Critique in Taiwan (ACT), as chief editor and chairman and established it as a public journal. Gong is also an acclaimed translator of writings by Gaston Bachelard, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Carl Gustav Jung into Chinese. His curatorial projects include Are We Working Too Much? (Eslite Gallery, Taipei, 2013), The Return of Ghosts (Hong-Gah Museum, Taipei, 2014), and Kau-Pué, Mutual Companionship in New Feature: 2017 Soulangh International Contemporary Art Festival (Tainan, 2017).


Simon Soon is a researcher and Senior Lecturer in the Visual Art Department of the Cultural Centre, University of Malaya. He completed a Ph.D. in Art History at the University of Sydney under an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship. His thesis ‘What is Left of Art?’ investigates the spatial-visual cultures at the intersection between left-leaning politicised art movements and the emergent modern publics of Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines from 1950s–1970s. His broader areas of interest include comparative modernities in art, urban histories, history of photography and art historiography. He has written on various topics related to 20th-century art across Asia and occasionally curates exhibitions, most recently Love Me in My Batik: Modern Batik Art from Malaysia and Beyond. He is also a team member of Malaysia Design Archive, an online repository on visual culture from late 19th century to the present day.